Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Gobbins Restoration

The Gobbins ©

Ian Maxwell of BBC news reports that a £6 million project to restore an historic coastal path in County Antrim is due to begin this summer.

The Gobbins cliff path on Islandmagee is about half a mile long. It was built in 1902 and in its heyday was more popular than the Giant's Causeway.

It was a commercial venture from the outset, designed and constructed by Berkeley Deane Wise. But the attraction - with 15 bridges and a path carved into the cliff-side - fell into disrepair after the 2nd World War.

It was closed to the public sixty years ago.

Several attempts have been made over the last forty years to raise the funds needed to restore the path, but all efforts have been in vain, until now. Work on a new visitors centre will start this summer and work on the cliff face path will begin in September.

It is hoped both will be completed and open to visitors by May, 2014. Larne Borough Council is contributing £2 million to the project, which is also being funded by the European Union and Ulster Garden Villages Ltd.

The cliffs are home to the largest seabird colony along the coast of mainland Northern Ireland - only Rathlin Island has a larger colony.

Ian Enlander, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, said it is a unique place.
"It's designated as an area of special scientific interest because of the breeding kittiwake and razorbill," 
The new path will include reconstructed versions of the tubular bridge and a 25-metre suspension bridge which were once part of the route. Morgan Haylett, the project manager from RPS Consulting Engineers, said he believed it would be a challenge to construct the new path.
"Access is either from the top of the cliff or via the sea. Back in the days (when it was built), the bigger bridges were floated in and then lifted into place and it may very well be that that has to happen this time round too." 
Visitors will be transported from the visitors centre in groups of 12 by minibus to the entrance of the path. They will then be given a guided tour. Final ticket prices have not been set, but the estimate is £6 per person.

Geraldine McGahey, chief executive of Larne Borough Council, said the new path would bring thousands to the area.
"In the first year we expect around 50,000 visitors, now that is a very pessimistic projection, but we like to err on the side of caution. Underestimate and overachieve. This is the pinnacle of everything that the council have aspired to give to the ratepayer as a legacy of what the council stood for and delivered."

Heritage Bonanza

Thousands of jobs could be created from Northern Ireland's historic assets, according to the NI Minister of the Environment (DoE).

Alex Attwood MLA will highlight the potential employment opportunities at a heritage economic summit which will take place at City Hall, Belfast.

Among those attending will be representatives from the CBI, tourism, architectural and governmental sectors.

Mr Attwood said:
"Our historic environment generates an annual output of £0.5bn and sustains 10,000 jobs. We can generate more. The equivalent figures for Wales are £1,837m output and 30,000 jobs. In the [Irish] Republic, 1.5bn euro in annual national wealth and 37,000 jobs so we can realise far more from our unique assets."
He said the DoE had commissioned a study of the economic value of Northern Ireland's historic environment,
"I am currently testing how to best utilise our heritage assets - the plan to develop the buried village around Dunluce Castle, a piece of our own Pompeii, in heritage and tourist terms and developing work around Carrickfergus Castle are two representative examples. If we get this right we will raise the profile, the profit and the protection of our historic environment to an international level."
Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, welcomed the summit, which will take place in Belfast City Hall,
"Our tourism offering is centred on what is unique about Northern Ireland, including our stories. Well developed heritage assets are key to this, and to growing our tourism economy".

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bangor Heritage

On Sunday, 26th May, 2013, I paid a visit to Bangor Castle demesne. I particularly wished to see the restored walled garden.

I've written already about the Castle, its owners and the demesne.

Nevertheless, suffice it to say that this large house was one of the grandest private homes in Ulster, as were its superb grounds and parkland.

Bangor Castle, County Down, was completed in 1852 for Robert Edward Ward. This imposing building is not so much a castle as an elegant Victorian mansion in the Elizabethan-Jacobean revival style.

It had 35 bedrooms and incorporated a huge saloon for musical recitals. When the then municipal authority, Bangor Borough Council, acquired the Castle and grounds, the music saloon became the Council Chamber.
The first Council meeting was held there almost exactly 100 years after the building-now known as the Town Hall was first completed.

The successor to Bangor Borough Council, North Down Borough Council now sits at the Castle. Situated in Castle Park the gardens have won many awards for their outstanding blooms.

The Clanmorris cypher adorns the front wall of the Castle.
Rear-Admiral the Hon Barry Bingham VC OBE was this family's most celebrated son.

I spent some time at the museum within the Castle before strolling a ten-minute walk to the walled garden, which has been beautifully restored, at great expense, by the Council.


Inside a display cabinet in the heritage centre are the insignia of the Rt Hon Sir John Newell Jordan GCMG GCIE KCB, a most distinguished diplomat and one of HM Most Honourable Privy Council, born at Balloo, near Bangor, County Down.

Sir John is interred at Bangor Abbey graveyard.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Primatial Sitting

His Grace the Lord Primate, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord John Beresford, poses for that indefatigable photographer, Timothy William, Earl of Belmont.
Lord John George de la Poer Beresford was 2nd son of the 1st Marquess of Waterford. He was the 106th Lord Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, 1822-62. Lord John's ancestors, the Beresford Baronets, were founders of Coleraine, County Londonderry.
Lord Belmont's reflection appears in the glass whilst holding his camera.

This image of Lord John is, I believe, is one of very few indeed on the Internet.

The Lord Primate wears his badge and sky-blue riband as Prelate of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick.

Lord John possessed immense wealth, thereby enabling him to indulge his clergy, diocese, buildings, land, art and many other interests with extraordinary largesse and beneficence.

His official residence was the Palace, Armagh, where His Grace lived in great opulence and splendour.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Information Plea

Merely to sate, or satiate, my own curiosity, can any readers recall the precise date on which Archbishop Simms vacated the Palace at Armagh?

Armagh City Council has stated that the Palace was occupied by archbishops from 1770 till 1975.

I'm also keen to know whether Archbishops of Armagh, or Lord Primates as they were known, had an official residence in the city of Dublin, where they regularly attended the Irish House of Lords.

Primatial Reception

The Royal Maundy service took place on the 20th March, 2008, at Armagh Anglican Cathedral, attended by Her Majesty The Queen, who was accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

The Lord Archbishop of Armagh at that time, the Most Rev Alan Harper OBE, officiated.

The Archbishop's counterpart from Armagh RC Cathedral, His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Sean Brady, was in attendance, too.

Afterwards, a sherry reception was given by the Archbishop at the Deanery.

The Office of the Royal Maundy provided luncheon to invited guests.

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Freak Show

I am utterly distraught. I missed The Freak Show last night on BBC One at ten thirty-five, viz. Question Time, from Belfast; chairman, Pop Dimbleby.

Timothy Belmont wishes readers to know that he never missed Hammer Horrors during the 1960s and 70s.

As it happens, I had the final chapter of Jeeves in the Offing for perusal in the bedroom.

Estranged from Ulster politics? Moi?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Royal Condolences


"I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of life and devastation caused by yesterday’s tornado in Oklahoma. Prince Philip joins me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families at this difficult time. Our deepest sympathies go out to all those whose lives have been affected, as well the American people."


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Lord Shaftesbury

The Aristocrats, on More4 this evening at 8pm, follows the Right Honourable Nicholas Edmond Anthony [Ashley-Cooper], 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, Baron Ashley, Baron Cooper, and 13th Ashley-Cooper Baronet, coming to terms with his sudden and tragic assumption of the earldom and other titles.

His father, the 10th Earl, was brutally murdered in France.

 I wrote an article about this incident three years ago.
The 8th Earl wedded Lady Harriet Chichester and thereby acquired part of the Donegall Estate and Belfast Castle. The 9th Earl was sometime Lord Mayor of Belfast, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast and Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast.
Lord Shaftesbury endeavours to rescue the family name, famed for philanthropy and acts of charity down the centuries, from bankruptcy and ruin.

This is the first documentary made with access to Lord Shaftesbury and his family.

The 12th Earl thought he was going to be a disc-jockey, and was enjoying success in New York, when his father Anthony, 10th Earl, was murdered by his Tunisian wife's brother.

Lord Shaftesbury's brother Anthony, who had become 11th Earl a month earlier, when their father's body was discovered, then died tragically of a sudden heart attack, aged just 28.

The death of his father and brother left Nick facing an appalling challenge.

The family seat at Wimborne St Giles was in such bad condition that English Heritage had placed it on their at-risk register.

The film follows the 12th Earl as he decides that he will rescue it, borrowing millions from the banks to do so.

Minnowburn Day

I have spent four hours today at Minnowburn, a National Trust property near Belfast, with six other volunteers.

Alas, I was the only volunteer from the Strangford Lough & Ards group.

Our task today was to remove the loose stones from a decrepit wall near the Warden's office in preparation for rebuilding.

It remained dry till lunchtime, when the rain arrived and play was called off.

Tomasz, one of the rangers, brought us all into the old barn afterwards, where he was creating a wooden sculpture of an oak-leaf, which will be used as a bench-seat.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Nomadic Launch

I eagerly anticipate the "launch" of our beautifully restored ship, SS Nomadic.

Nomadic was, of course, a tender to the ill-fated RMS Titanic. She is almost exactly one hundred years old.

Their website is now live and tickets can be purchased in advance of the grand opening day on Saturday, 1st June, 2013.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Prince Michael in Coleraine

Prince Michael of Kent yesterday evening attended a civic reception at Coleraine Borough Council to highlight opportunities of Digital Causeway initiative.

Upon arrival His Royal Highness was greeted by,
  • The Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry, Mr Denis Desmond CBE;
  • His Worship the Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor Sam Cole;
  • The Mayoress of Coleraine, Mrs Cole.

Prince Michael met Mr Philip Gilliland, High Sheriff of County Londonderry; Roger Wilson, Chief Executive, Coleraine Borough Council; Professor Deirdre Heenan, Provost, University of Ulster; and senior Council officials and representatives from the University.

The visit followed a private engagement with the Lord Ballyedmond OBE that took place during 2012.

At that time, His Royal Highness expressed an interest in the North Coast area and in particular the Project Kelvin cable.

True to his word, HRH visited Coleraine to witness the opportunities first hand.

The Mayor concluded the event by thanking His Royal Highness for his support and looking forward to his help with future economic development opportunities.

Prince Michael was joined by Lord Ballyedmond, who recently has been generously lending his support to local economic efforts.

Lord Ballyedmond, Ms Charlotte Pike, Sir William Moore Bt and Lady Moore all attended the presentation and the Mayor presented a gift on behalf of the Borough prior to his departure and signing of the official guest book.
Later HRH listened to a presentation on the Borough of Coleraine and economic development conducted by Mr Wilson and then heard a briefing on the Digital Causeway from the Chair, Telecommunications Engineering, University of Ulster, Professor Gerard Parr followed by a Question and Answer session.
In the Bann Gallery, HRH met approximately 100 guests during a light supper.

The Mayor spoke a few words of welcome and presented Prince Michael with a gift of a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey.

Prior to departure the Mayor also invited HRH to sign the Visitors’ Book bringing the engagement to a close.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Sewing Errand

I paid a visit to Sew In The City, a little unit on the ground floor of the former Anderson & McAuley building. It is at the Castle Street side.

Last week I purchased a navy blazer which actually fits me very well, except for the sleeves which are too long.

The snag is that the cuffs have four metal, functional buttons. Cognisant that any alteration would affect this, I eventually decided to proceed with it.

To my slight annoyance, this will fundamentally affect the functionality of the cuff-buttons, to the extent that two will need to be moved above the remaining two, thus shortening the cuffs by about two inches.

Sleeve length, however, is more important than button functionality, to my mind.

THENCE I ambled up the entire length of Fountain Street, to that pre-eminent civic establishment, the Linenhall Library.

Prior to my arrival at the library, I took the opportunity of photographing Commonwealth House (top), at Castle Street, which is to be demolished to make way for the Bank Buildings' extension.

HEREIN I researched the Whites of White Hall, Broughshane, ancestors of Ulster's most distinguished son, Field-Marshal Sir George White VC.

Being the 225th anniversary of the Library's foundation, I photographed the birthday-cake and balloons.

Friday, 10 May 2013

London Visit

Merely a brief bulletin to apprise readers that I shall be in the Metropolis for a number of days during the month of June, coinciding with Her Majesty's official birthday.

I am meeting the chaplain of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, off The Strand, during my visit.

Depending on the old schedule, I hope to secure the nosebag at that fine establishment, viz. the Brompton Bar & Grill, which has, of course, very strong Ulster links.

They might even have something on the menu from Cleggan.

I will be staying for the duration with friends at Harrow.

Doubtless there will be ample time for requisite restoratives (!).

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Caroline's Grant

I am delighted to learn that a project to transform HMS Caroline into a floating museum in Belfast has been boosted by a £845,600 grant.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has confirmed its initial support for the transformation of HMS Caroline.

The money will enable the National Museum of the Royal Navy to draw up more detailed plans to bid for a full grant of £12.2m.

The project aims to preserve the ship and more than 450 objects.

Visitors will be able to learn about the history of the ship, her 300-strong crew and key milestones of her service, the links to Belfast and the city's industrial heritage.

The head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said:
"These exciting proposals to preserve and transform this hugely important heritage asset into a world-class heritage experience will undoubtedly add to, and complement the current offering at the Titanic Quarter.

It will also provide a tremendous boost for the local economy with the opportunity to secure more than £12m in lottery funding, which would be HLF's largest single award in Northern Ireland.

With development funding and our initial support in place the project can progress to the next stage of the funding process. The hard work will now begin to develop more detailed proposals which will bring the project to life and set out how it will deliver real benefits for local people, the economy and the heritage."
HMS Caroline is the last remaining warship of the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet which fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

A light cruiser, weighing 3,750 tons and 446ft long, it holds the record for the fastest build time of any major warship.

Constructed in 1914, the ship is one of only 200 vessels in the National Historic Fleet.

Caroline will be berthed at the Alexandra Dock in Belfast and will be conserved alongside the listed Pump House, to serve as a visitor centre and gateway to the ship.

Exhibition space within the 120-year-old Pump House will be used to link the heritage of HMS Caroline with the Pump House and other surrounding maritime assets such as Thompson Dock.

A series of workshops, events and activities, both on the ship and through a dedicated outreach programme, will help to involve communities with the project.

The HLF said partnerships with colleges would also be explored to secure additional learning opportunities for students of history, construction, engineering and tourism.

The NI Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Mrs Arlene Foster MLA, said the announcement of support by the HLF brought plans to have HMS Caroline
"restored and preserved for future generations one step closer. Over the last year, there has been a significant effort, from myself and others, to find a solution to keeping HMS Caroline here. We have developed a strong partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

This partnership will continue as we restore the ship. HMS Caroline has become part of the city's rich maritime heritage. Its restoration in the Alexander Dock will complement and enhance our tourism offer in the city and protect a heritage asset of local and national importance.

Our ultimate aim is to transform the ship into a world-class floating museum in time for the Battle of Jutland centenary in 2016, as I believe HMS Caroline has huge potential as a visitor experience."
Captain John Rees OBE RN, National Museum of the Royal Navy chief of staff and senior responsible owner of the HMS Caroline restoration programme, said he was relieved that work could now begin on the project:
"We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the certainty they have given to the future of this immensely important vessel. HMS Caroline is quite simply one of the most significant historic fighting ships in the world, second only to HMS Victory, and to restore the ship and open it to the public as a shared space, museum and cultural hub in Belfast means the city will benefit hugely from its presence."

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Tax Disc Payment

The annual motor tax disc application arrived yesterday.

In Northern Ireland, there are currently five official ways of paying, viz.
  • Cheque
  • Postal Order (!)
  • Cash
  • Vehicle Licensing Stamp
  • Switch or Delta at local DVL offices
I am apprised that it can be renewed by phoning 028 7034 1514, debit cards only.

I asked the Department why online payments are not available, as they are on the Mainland; and I received this response today:
Because vehicle licensing is not devolved to the Assembly, DVLA are responsible for these services across the UK but they use DVA for the delivery of services in NI.

DVA operate a limited telephone service for renewing tax discs but are not funded by DVLA to do more.

The Department is continuing to seek early commitments from the DVLA to deliver improvements in the quality of service provided to vehicle tax payers here, including online renewal services.

All services within the Agency in Northern Ireland are delivered with the customer as the focus.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Botanic Inns

The BBC reports that Ulster's biggest pub chain has gone into administration.

Its portfolio includes two hotels, Madison's in Belfast and Denvir's in Downpatrick, County Down; and two off-licences.

It runs numerous well-known bars in Belfast, including The Botanic Inn, The Apartment, The King's Head, The Northern Whig, McHugh's, and Horatio Todd's.

Botanic Inns employs 600 people in 14 outlets.

The chain of pubs, restaurants and hotels will continue trading, while the administrators, KPMG, seek a buyer for all or parts of the troubled business.

It appears the group has fallen victim to the economic downturn, compounded by high rent levels on properties set during the boom and a high level of company debt.

Botanic Inns grew into Northern Ireland's biggest chain on the strength of its original pub, The Botanic Inn, at 23-27 Malone Road, Belfast, which belonged to the Mooney family.

That such a landmark business is now in administration is a shock that will be felt across the industry, though hope remains it will be saved.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said it was disappointing news:-
"Botanic Inns is an iconic brand for the city of Belfast and right across Northern Ireland. It is no secret that factors have accumulated over the past year which have made it a very tough trading environment right across the industry. 

The revenue reserves normally built up by publicans during the Christmas season have suffered in the current trading environment and the negative impact of the recent flag protests compounding the problems faced by the trade." 
Would JD Wetherspoon plc be interested? Tim Martin is an Old Campbellian.


I am particularly interested in the news about a possible treatment for vitiligo. I have had this condition around my eyes for at least thirty years.

Indeed, it has caused my eyelashes to turn white. I also have a little vitiligo on my chest and hands.

A CURE for grey hair, which means millions will be able to throw away messy dyes, could be available in the future, researchers have said.

Scientists found people who are going grey develop "massive oxidative stress" via accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle, which causes hair to bleach itself from the inside out.

According to the FASEB Journal, the team which includes experts from Bradford University's School of Life Sciences, have discovered the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide can be remedied with a proprietary treatment.

They described it as "a topical, UVB-activated compound called PC-KUS (a modified pseudocatalase)", the report said. The treatment can also be used for people with the skin condition vitiligo, which causes a loss of pigmentation.

Study author Professor Karin Schallreuter said,
"To date, it is beyond any doubt that the sudden loss of the inherited skin and localised hair colour can affect those individuals in many fundamental ways. The improvement of quality of life after total and even partial successful repigmentation has been documented."
She is a specialist in vitiligo and the research team made their discovery after studying an international group of 2,411 patients.

FASEB Journal editor-in-chief Gerald Weissman said,
"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide grey hair but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed. While this is exciting news, what's even more exciting is that this also works for vitiligo.

"This condition, while technically cosmetic, can have serious socio-emotional effects of people. Developing an effective treatment for this condition has the potential to radically improve many people's lives."

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Royal Adjutant

A Sunday Times report has said that the Duke of Cambridge KG KT is to return to the Blues & Royals, where he was before he was seconded to RAF Search & Rescue.

Today’s report says that Prince William may become an adjutant in the Blues & Royals.

The report said,
“His decision to remain in the armed forces is understood to reflect the desire of the Cambridges to raise their child away from the spotlight of full-time royal duties.”
His Royal Highness is already a captain in the Blues & Royals, having joined the Army as an officer cadet. He was commissioned out at a 2nd Lieutenant in 2006.

Soon after, when he discovered he wouldn’t be allowed out on the front lines, Prince William decided to transfer to the RAF, where he worked at a Search & Rescue pilot.

As adjutant of the second-highest ranking regiment of the Army, the Blues & Royals, The Duke of Cambridge would work as administrative assistant to a more senior officer in the Army, akin to a personal assistant.

The position, which can also be referred to as Aide-de-Camp (a position HRH now holds to The Queen) is an administrative one and does not involve front line combat.

The Duke of Cambridge is eligible for promotion to the rank of major within the next year. Some reports say he could be considered for promotion sooner if he becomes an adjutant.

Grand Opera

I was having a look through a few of the Belmont archives and see that I have not attended a traditional opera or operetta in Northern Ireland since 2011, when I went to see a very good production of  The Pirates of Penzance, by the New Lyric Operatic Company.

Since then, a key highlight of our season in Northern Ireland, Castle Ward Opera, has been ruthlessly shut down, despite continual, valiant efforts by the opera company to secure private sponsorship and funding.

Since then, we have no BP Big Summer Screen at Belfast's Botanic Gardens, an annual event I rather looked forward to, provided that the weather was fairly clement.

The permanent screen within the grounds of Belfast City Hall is, to my mind, a poor substitute; as is the location.

Whilst it is true that I have attended a couple of operas at the city's Grand Opera House since then, the productions have not been to my personal taste, which is essentially traditional.

Is the Royal Opera House the only venue which can afford lavish costumes, props, sets and ambiance now?

The people who sit on the boards of various Arts bodies, those who feel that opera, in their egalitarian world, is "elitist"; who despise grandeur, pomp, formality and tradition; the very people who thrive on spending others', viz. the Taxpayers', money.

These kinds of people have no difficulty with the Consumer buying expensive tickets for boy or girl band concerts; or even premier league football matches.

There's nothing wrong with the Elite; far superior to egalitarian clap-trap. Premier League front row seats are more financially exclusive than front stalls at the Royal Opera House.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Picnic Goblets

I happened to be in the vicinity of Holywood Exchange, a retail park near Belfast, this morning.

Popping into the BHS Home store -  which, incidentally, is excellent -  I spotted lots of outdoor and picnic items, viz. acrylic glasses and goblets.

Anybody who has been to Belmont GHQ shall know that there is an abundance of crystal glassware therein.

Notwithstanding this, I was quite taken by the "vintage" acrylic wine goblets and flutes.

A cheese slicer was also required.

Having forgotten to bring my own carrier-bag, I strode over to the two-seater and managed to find one for the purchases.

Thursday, 2 May 2013


I cycled into town this morning on the trusty two-wheeler, the principal purpose being to endeavour to obtain an image of the 1st and last Baron Beresford's coat-of-arms.

Lord Charles William de la Poer Beresford, 2nd son of the 4th Marquess of Waterford, was a distinguished naval commander and major landowner in County Cavan.

Alas, my visit to Belfast's splendid central library in Royal Avenue was fruitless: Burke's and Debrett's peerages between 1916 and 1919, when Lord Beresford died, were missing (perhaps due to the 1st World War).

I shall use his father's arms instead.

I cycled over to the Linenhall Library.

I darkened the entrance of a rather lovely chocolatier at William Street South, near the Victoria Square shopping centre, Hotel Chocolat, where I was offered a sample of their fine cocoa creations.

On my way home, via Titanic Quarter, I passed the marina at Abercorn Basin, which has ten or twelve boats.

Galgorm Development

It has been reported that more than 60 full and part-time jobs are to be created with the expansion Galgorm Castle estate, near Ballymena, County Antrim.

The estate currently comprises the 17th Century castle, a courtyard housing twenty businesses, and a golf course.

It has been announced that an £8m investment that will see the Castle undergo extensive renovations in order that it can be opened to the public.

A new 32,000 square-foot garden centre is also planned.

Galgorm Castle's Jacobean walled garden will be restored to its original style. The existing business courtyard shall be augmented with a £3m expansion, including the construction of new offices, and a car park for 180 vehicles.

The golf club-house is to undergo a £250,000 facelift, ahead of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge competition, which Galgorm is to host in late August, 2013.

It is expected that the new garden centre will attract up to 80,000 visitors a year and that, together with the restored Castle, the development will be a "major asset and tourist attraction for Ballymena and its surrounding areas".

The Hon Christopher Brooke, managing director of Galgorm Castle Estates, said he hoped the plans would provide a welcome boost for business in the County Antrim town.
"Our investment is entirely privately funded and clearly displays our faith in the future growth and prosperity of Ballymena. We believe that through these developments, we can raise international awareness of Galgorm, Ballymena borough and Northern Ireland and attract further foreign direct investment into the area."
The Hon Christopher is younger brother of the 3rd and present Viscount Brookeborough. His son Archie will eventually succeed to the viscountcy, the baronetcy, and Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh.

The NI Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Mrs Arlene Foster MLA, described the plans as a "significant investment":
"Galgorm Castle has the potential to become an even bigger economic asset to the Ballymena borough, and the planned developments to the castle, courtyard and new garden centre will help drive visitors to this historic site and create welcome job opportunities in the area.".
Galgorm estate was originally granted to the Irish warrior, Rory Og MacQuillan, by JAMES I in 1607.

However, the chieftain was tricked out of his estate by Sir Faithful Fortescue, a nephew of Sir Arthur Chichester.

Sir Faithful started to build Galgorm Castle in 1618 and later sold it to Dr Alexander Colville, a wealthy and controversial religious academic, who continued the construction.

During WILLIAM III's campaign in Ireland, Galgorm Castle was used as the headquarters for Danish troops.

During the 1798 rebellion, the United Irishmen laid siege to Ballymena and tried to storm the Castle.

In 1850, the Galgorm was bought by the Youngs, wealthy linen merchants.
Their cousin, Roger Casement, a leading figure in the lead up to the 1916 Easter Rising, lived at Galgorm Castle for six years. Casement, who was later executed for treason, stayed with the family when he was a schoolboy at Ballymena Academy.
The Youngs' prosperity faded with the collapse of Ulster's linen industry and for most of the 20th Century, the Castle fell into decline.

A renovation programme began in 1980; and its award-winning courtyard development opened in 1993.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Stormont Date

Timothy Belmont has been incommunicado to a certain extent for the last 24 hours or so, having spent the evening at the Stormont Hotel, Belfast.

Lady A and self enjoyed a few restoratives and an enjoyable dinner at the Hotel's La Scala bistro.